Former Napster founders Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning sat down for an interview conducted by actor/director Alex Winter at SXSW Music as part of the promotional campaign for the upcoming film documenting Napster's rise and fall, titled "Downloaded."
The duo also mentioned that they are creating a new social video company together, called Airtime, but only briefly touched upon that before veering off to discuss the Napster's founding, legacy and potential successors in the current industry.
The interview kicked off with a brief promo cut of the still-unfinished film, showing how the duo predicted a world where music access models would be more important than ownership all the way back in 1999, at Napster's apex. And Parker, who went on to serve as founding President of Facebook and now sits on the board at Spotify, feels that the Napster model has never truly been replicated from a social sharing perspective.
"Spotify is allowing us to do a lot of the things we never got to do with Napster," he says, referencing the company's stagnation after lawsuits from record labels caused it to get wrapped up in litigation after 2001. "But Facebook-Spotify sharing needs to get better."
While Napster allowed users to browse others' libraries and discuss tracks and artists - the protoype of a music social network - he says that it is not intuitive enough for users to take discussions on Facebook and turn them into artist sharing on Spotify. "There's too much happening in the Facebook arena, and not enough in Spotify," he says. "It might be the right move to let people see who is browsing what in your library."
The duo also touched on the way Napster affected the music industry - and how it is only now just coming around to embracing the changes that it forced on record labels.
"[At Napster] we only thought about the pure business elements, how it could benefit the consumer... we didn't understand what all this meant to the record executives," says Fanning. "People have come around now, but we're not really there yet."
For Parker, Spotify has a massive role to play in the future of the music industry; at its current growth rate, he says, it will overtake iTunes in terms of revenue for the music business in under two years. And as for the grumblings about Spotify's reported meager payouts per stream, he says that it is more of an artist-label issue than one Spotify has to deal with.
"There's blood in the water for labels. Spotify has to remain neutral; the biggest contribution we can make is transparency."